Growth was the theme this year in the health care industry with multiple expansions and partnerships aimed at increasing access. The growth, some of which is in progress, comes at a time when the health status of Northeast Texans continues to lag behind the rest of the state and nation.
The merger of Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics and Irving-based Christus Health in May set the stage for growth bringing greater resources to this area.
The Mother Frances health system had been working for more than a year on an in-depth strategic plan to address changes in health care.
As part of that, officials were working to identify an entity they could partner with, ultimately selecting Christus Health.
Officials said little change would be visible in the short-term, but new construction and enhanced service locations could be expected in the long-term for 27-county service area.
In November, Good Shepherd Health System in Longview announced its plans to merge with Christus Health in early 2017.
Good Shepherd struggled for years to achieve profitability and faced regulatory issues, facility needs and other challenges, according to an article in the Longview News Journal.
Officials said the partnership likely would boost the hospitals access to the latest medical technology and foster a more formal relationship between the doctors from both entities.
UT Health Northeast partners with MD Anderson
A new partnership between UT Health Northeast and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston promises to bring greater resources to this area.
The new affiliation means UT's Cancer Treatment and Prevention Center becomes part of the MD Anderson Cancer Network, an international collaboration of hospitals and health systems that fight the disease.
It puts UT Health Northeast's cancer program in partnership with six other American health care institutions and three facilities in Brazil, Spain and Turkey.
UT Health Northeast President Dr. Kirk Calhoun said it is probably the biggest development in the institution's history.
"It's a very big deal for our medical center and it's a very big deal for our community," he said earlier this month.
Texas Spine & Joint partners with NFL greats
Texas Spine & Joint Hospital announced a partnership with former NFL greats and Tyler natives Earl Campbell and Gary Baxter to start an institute in sports medicine, research and treatment.
The Project Rose Research Institute, which is slated to open in spring 2017, will be on the second floor of the hospital.
Pro Football Hall of Fame and Heisman Trophy-winning running back Campbell and defensive back Baxter, a standout on several all-time great Baltimore Ravens defenses, will play pivotal roles in fundraising for Project Rose's nonprofit foundation.
The institute will seek philanthropic funding to help current and retired athletes, as well as aspiring young athletes, get the benefit of sports injury and prevention, rehabilitation and performance training.
"We are confident that this collaboration will result in advancements in sports medicine, health, nutrition and fitness for East Texans," Texas Spine & Joint Hospital CEO Tony Wahl said. "Further, we hope to make significant strides in the prevention of sports injuries and concussions, particularly in young athletes."
ETMC Behavioral Health launched a post-traumatic stress disorder program to treat active duty and military veterans, law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel and civilians who are survivors of a traumatic event.
Dr. Daniel Williams, who is a former Army soldier and captain and psychiatrist in the Texas Army National Guard, oversees the program.
The program is mostly outpatient, but starts with an in-patient stabilization component.
This part is designed to teach the educational pieces and biology of PTSD; help people recognize the normal reactions to trauma, guilt and shame; and show how people tend to avoid certain situations when they have the condition.
The inpatient program can last five to seven days depending on the care and education a person needs.
"My goal is to get people sleeping because most people with PTSD are not resting," Williams said. "Then, we teach our patients what they could experience in their life to get a little hope started and sparked, so they start to see what we're talking about. They start to feel better about themselves and they might come back for the appointment for the outpatient program."
An August report about the health status of Northeast Texas found the region experiences higher mortality rates when compared to other parts of the state and nation.
The report found if this 35-county region were considered a state it would rank 49th in the nation in heart disease mortality, 47th in chronic lower respiratory disease mortality and 51st in stroke mortality. It would rank 45th in overall (or all-cause) mortality.
The region also had mortality rates higher than the Texas average for the following causes of death: heart disease and stroke; lung and colorectal cancers and melanoma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; kidney disease; motor vehicle injury; suicide and infant mortality.
"These statistics represent real neighbors, real family members, real people who are dying too early," Dr. David Lakey, the UT System's associate vice chancellor for population health and UT Health Northeast's senior vice president for population health, said in August. "Our hope is that this report can be used to help stakeholders set priorities and guide action in northeast Texas, an area that faces some of the most significant health challenges and disparities in the state."
Expansions and access
Christus Trinity Mother Frances expanded by opening the Herrington-Ornelas HealthPark on East Grande Boulevard.
The 43,500-square-foot facility houses the health system's physical therapy services, a fitness center with a lap pool, an urgent care center, imaging services and a lab. In the future, it will house locations for the Ross Breast Center and a sleep center. The health system's Whitehouse clinic was relocated to the health park.
Across town, the health system continued construction on its hospital on South Broadway Avenue near the Cumberland Road intersection.
The three-story, 60,000-square-foot micro-hospital will include a freestanding emergency room and full-service inpatient hospital. Officials estimated it would have a maximum of 18 beds.
The hospital is slated to open in February.In addition to this new location, the health system added Christus Mother Frances Hospital – Sulphur Springs and Christus Trinity Clinic in Emory to its network. Both were pre-existing facilities under different management.
In other news, East Texas Medical Center – Tyler and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas reached an agreement to ensure the hospital would be a full in-network provider in the company's preferred provider plans.
This means patients can choose ETMC Tyler and receive all the benefits offered by their Blue Cross Blue Shield Texas PPO insurance plan.